Motorists face the most expensive Christmas getaway on record as fuel retailers take “blatant advantage” of people driving home for the holidays.
Prices at the pumps remain high, despite the wholesale cost of petrol and diesel having fallen in recent weeks.
Retailers are making 16p a litre on unleaded on average, compared with a long-term average of 6p. On diesel they are making 13p a litre, compared with 6p last Christmas. Motorists are paying 146p a litre for unleaded this Christmas — 10p more than they should be, according to the RAC. A litre of diesel is 149p on average.
“Retailers’ ‘gift’ to drivers this Christmas is to take advantage of them like never before,” Simon Williams, the RAC fuel spokesman, told Business Matters.
“Retailers have blatantly resisted making significant cuts at the pumps that the wholesale price merited in favour of trivial daily reductions.”
Today is expected to be the busiest Christmas Eve on the roads since 2015, with 5.3 million journeys being made, according to Inrix, the traffic data company.
Congestion will be made worse by a strike affecting CrossCountry, one of the main long-distance rail operators, today. The vast majority of its services will be cancelled.
Staff sickness is affecting other rail operators, with companies warning of last-minute cancellations and delays to services. The last trains before Christmas will depart this evening, and the network will remain largely shut down until Monday.
The majority of those planning getaways this year intend to travel by road, with only one in ten taking public transport, according to the research by Transport Focus.
Average unleaded prices at the pumps hit a record 147.50p a litre in the seven days to December 1, and diesel climbed to 150.75p. Unleaded wholesale prices reached 111.94p but have since fallen to 104.07p. Prices at the pumps, however, have fallen to just shy of 146p.
Williams said: “Had this type of behaviour been seen in the domestic energy market there would have been public uproar. Sadly, though, there’s no scrutiny of fuel prices at a government level whatsoever, meaning drivers are left to suffer at the hands of greedy retailers.”
Supermarkets are responsible for about half of all fuel sales. Such is the volume and frequency of their purchases they could pass on savings in the wholesale price to consumers quickly.
“If they were to do this, as they have in the past, it would then force other retailers to do the same, lowering prices for drivers everywhere,” Williams said. “Instead we have virtually no competition in fuel retailing now, to the detriment of the driving public.”
The AA and FairFuelUK, the campaign group, have repeatedly demanded that supermarkets make cuts.
Motorists are paying 30p more on a litre of unleaded this Christmas compared with last year, yet wholesale prices are up by only 16p. It now costs about £80 to fill the average 55-litre family car, compared with £63 this time last year. Fuel duty and VAT on sales are the same as last year.